'Smoker's cough' should not be ignored as it could be a sign of chronic lung disease

'The single best thing a smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing this devastating disease and prolong their life, is to stop smoking,' says chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies

Health officials have urged people not to ignore “smoker’s cough” as it could be a sign of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is incurable.

New figures from Public Health England (PHE) have revealed more than one million people in the UK are living with COPD - the umbrella term for conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It can cause breathlessness as well as difficulty doing everyday activities such as climbing the stairs.

Of the 25,000 deaths from the disease occurring in England each year, almost 90 per cent are caused by smoking. And between 2013 and 2014, COPD led to more than 113,000 emergency hospital visits, according to Health & Social Care Information Centre.

PHE said it wanted to highlight “the debilitating nature of serious lung diseases for which smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor”.

The health body has launched a new short film which shows the lives of people living with COPD and urges people to quit smoking in the New Year. It features ex-Olympic runner Iwan Thomas, whose mother was recently diagnosed with the disease.

25,000 a year die from COPD

He said: "I've never fully understood COPD or the everyday consequences but when the simple things like climbing the stairs, making a cup of tea or walking to the bus stop become impossible, it's serious.”

Although there is no cure for COPD, lifestyle changes, pulmonary rehabilitation and medication can slow down its progression. 

“COPD is a serious lung disease and is not particularly well known,” said Professor Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer.

“The single best thing a smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing this devastating disease and prolong their life, is to stop smoking,” she added.

Dr Nicholas Hopkinson, the clinical lead for COPD at the Royal Brompton Hospital, advised smokers not to “ignore a ‘smoker’s cough’ or getting out of breath”.

“Take it as a sign to quit before any damage to your lungs gets worse.”

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